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Variety is the spice: Quartet of Northern Michigan University Wildcat Award winners cover 4 sports

Northern Michigan University freshman kick returner Tyquan Cox, center, runs back a kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown in the first quarter of a football game against Wayne State played in the Superior Dome in Marquette on Oct. 5. The lead blocker at left is Benjamin Loutsis, while blocking just behind Cox is Trevor Roberts. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — Two awards being presented to four student-athletes at Northern Michigan University in four sports highlight the second-to-last set of 2019-20 Wildcat Awards detailed today.

This is the fourth in what will be five parts of the these awards. This story outlines the Best Play of the Year and the Breakthrough Athletes of the Year.

Coming up in the final part will be the Team of the Year, Gildo Canale Outstanding Seniors and Athletes of the Year.

Previous awards detailed were Scholar Athletes of the Year, Best Moment of the Year, Lindsay Griffith & Todd “Stix” Honch Fan of the Year, Newcomers of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Biggest Upset of the Year, Best Performance on the National Scene, Brian Franks “Too Strong” Award, Individual Performance of the Year, Team Community Engagement, Record Breaking Performance, Most Influential and/or Supportive Faculty Member and team awards.

Information on these awards has also been made on social media and can be found on the official NMU Athletics website, www.nmuwildcats.com.

Northern Michigan University’s Marcus Matelski looks for a teammate in a game against Lake Superior State at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Feb. 15, 2018. (Journal file photo)

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Best Play of the Year

Senior Marcus Matelski of Boyne Falls earned his Wildcat Award when he sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to break a tie and lift the NMU men’s basketball team to a 64-61 victory at Upper Peninsula rival Michigan Tech on Dec. 15.

Senior teammate Myles Howard hit a jump shot with 1:24 left to tie the score at 61-61 as neither team could score during each of their next three possessions until Matelski’s heroics.

With three seconds left in regulation, the Wildcats inbounded the ball in front of their own bench to sophomore Dolapo Olayinka, who drove to the lane to draw off Matelski’s defender. He passed to Matelski, who was wide open in the corner as he hit the baseline triple to win it in Houghton.

The referee raises his hand to signify a victory by Spencer Woods after the Northern Michigan University National Training Site wrestler finished in second place at the U.S. Open Greco-Roman tournament in Las Vegas during April 2019. (Photo courtesy Sandy Slater)

Northern had jumped out to big leads of 7-2, 17-4 and 31-13 in the first half, only to watch the Huskies storm back, first getting the deficit back to single digits a few minutes into the second half and taking their first lead at 53-52 with 8:07 left. The margin was mostly within four points the rest of the way.

The game clincher allowed Matelski to tie Olayinka for top NMU scoring honors that day with 11 points, which included a game-high three 3-pointers. He also didn’t turn the ball over in 29 minutes of action.

Twitter and the NMU website has video of the play available.

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Breakthrough Athletes

of the Year

Spencer Woods

Three other sports were represented with this award.

In football, Tyquan Cox of Chicago was named Second Team All-GLIAC as a kick returner in his freshman season.

Despite the Wildcat gridders going just 1-9, he sported one of the season’s highlights with a 99-yard kickoff return against Wayne State on Oct. 5 in the Superior Dome, which was the longest return in the league in 2019. It gave his team a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, though the Warriors would go on for a 27-14 victory.

Cox also had returns of 54, 45 and 43 yards during the season, totaling 809 yards to average 27.9 yards per return. With 50 yards rushing on 14 carries and a pass catch for 2 yards, his 861 all-purpose yards was more than 100 yards ahead of any other Wildcat.

Senior Nicola Pasquire of Bedford, England, helped the Northern women’s swimming and diving team win the GLIAC Championships held Feb. 19-22 at Saginaw Valley State.

Nicola Pasquire

Pasquire earned team points in four individual events and a relay, coming in fourth in the 200-yard freestyle and seventh in the 500 free, 1,000 free and 1,650 free. She was part of a runner-up 800 free relay team, too.

Earlier in the season, she won the 1,000 free at a November meet at SVSU, was second in the 1,000 free against Findlay in October and at Wisconsin-Green Bay in January, and fourth in the 500 free at the Dragon Invitational in Minnesota in October.

The third recipient of this award is freshman Spencer Woods of Kotzebue, Alaska, on the NMU National Training Site’s Greco-Roman wrestling team.

He won his first Senior World gold medal in November at the Malar Cupen in Vasteras, Sweden, finishing with a 5-0 record.

Woods was also runner-up at the Bill Farrell International in New York that same month. He was the highest-placing American in his 77-kilogram (169.8-pound) division, qualifying him for the Olympic Trials. That made this resident of a small town about 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle the first Alaska resident to qualify for the trials since 2008.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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